Recently, I went to a Cults show where guitarist Brian Oblivion was visibly aggravated. Throughout the set, his mic was inaudible, Madeline Follin’s vocals were lost in the layers of guitar effects, and before their set a freezing crowd stood outside in almost below zero temperatures while a water main break down the street prevented the venue from letting them inside. Somehow, someone convinced the venue that it would be better to have clogged toilets and warm fans than constipated, dead ones and they let the fans inside. Another incident, I saw a Daughter concert [here] that found vocalist Elena Tonra suffering the same sonically lost fate that Cults would a few months later. Oh, and one time Crystal Castles’ sound blew out [here].
Sadly, most mishaps do not seem to be at the fault of the band. Live sound is tricky and got a reputation [pun] of being imperfect, but tonight at Stage AE, M.I.A. suffered through a set plagued with countless sound issues that hindered the hour and four minute long set on April 28th, 2014.
“Turn my motherfucking mic up on stage,” she snarled multiple times between songs. Eventually, she stopped the show to ask if the sound was as bad in the audience as she was hearing it. It wasn’t, mostly. It was indeed difficult to decipher Maya’s words at times, but it’s hard to get a mix perfect when it’s just a DJ & vocalist. You try mixing a mastered instrumental against live vocals and not have moments during song structure changes where the vocalist doesn’t get buried by a sonic portion of the track. Regardless, the mix was apparently so bad at one point Arulpragasam stopped rapping the first verse of “Warriors,” turned to the dancers, turned to the DJ, composed herself, and continued along at the chorus.
Mic feedback screeched through several songs.
For comparison purposes, the entire Pittsburgh show was very reminiscent of the looks she gave during her censored “Paper Planes” performance on David Letterman [here].
Beyond mishaps, M.I.A.’s short, but powerful set at Pittsburgh’s Stage AE was packed with high energy, and high talent. The majority of her back catalog is brilliantly remixed and re-imagined beyond their original form to fit in with the theme of her latest record Matangi.
While the rapper drove the Google is connected to the government message home via sitting at a computer for the opening number “The Message,” the rest of the show was met with just a few dancers, a carnival-esque amount of Matangi themed lights, and two numbers in which she invited fans on stage to dance and charmingly interact with her.
Toward the end of the concert, M.I.A. asks the DJ not to go into the next song. What happens next? You guessed it – “Bad Girls” starts to play. While you can watch footage of this happening below, it’s worth noting that bad girls do it well [reference]. “Holy shit,” she laughs with the crowd. Only so many things can go wrong before you start laughing and one thing Maya knew to do was laugh along with the people who stood by her.
Bad night aside, she soldiered through everything and did so with elegance. There’s a vibe about M.I.A. that completely embodies the overused term swag. That vibe is amplified 500% when you’re in the same room as her.
She absolutely killed her entire performance with power, power.
Story To Be Told
Partysquad Intro/Bucky Done Gun
Bring the Noise
Double Bubble Trouble
The redheads were saved tonight [reference] as the encore was cut from the set. According to the paper setlist, it was supposed to be “Born Free.”